Staffing Issues Galore…But Only One Issue Discussed Here!
by Dr. Kevin Klatte
Any dental professional running his or her own practice will testify to the fact that the most difficult, contentious and aggravating aspect of having a private practice is staffing. Managing your staff brings a myriad of issues to the table. However, in a yin and yang kind of way, the management of your staff also can be rewarding when things run smoothly and the proper systems are enacted, and it is definitely a key factor in the success of your professional life.
Rather than gloss over some kind of broad review of management concepts, I would like to discuss one small, but important, topic: how to find new staff members to add to your team. Specifically, I will cover what steps you should and shouldn't take.
Let's create the scenario: either you're growing and need a brand new team member (hopefully!), or someone leaves the practice for whatever reason. We will all be there eventually, so try not to take it personally. That way, it's easier to deal with the upcoming stress of replacing the employee and conducting a successful search for a new staff person.
What do we all tend to do in this situation? Our knee-jerk reaction is to place an ad in the newspaper. In case we were even thinking, we picked only the neighborhood paper and not the city-wide publication. The problem with this approach – and I've been there – starts with what the ad needs to say: "Experience necessary." Leave those words out, and every unqualified applicant in the newspaper's coverage area will send you resumes or, worse yet, jam up your phone lines so that paying patients can't reach you.
If you include those words, you could be faced with the situation of evaluating just a few, if any, qualified candidates with, most likely, these two outcomes to ponder: 1) the person is working for a colleague down the street, and, as a new guy on the block, you risk antagonizing the local dental community (worse yet is if you are a specialist and the colleague is a potential referral source), or 2) the person is working for the colleague down the street, and you won't antagonize the colleague, but then you're stuck with a disgruntled new hire who wasn't happy there and won't be happy with you either!
My suggestion is to consider a more difficult approach. The time to plan for filling a position is before you actually have the empty slot in front of you. Keep a list of potential hires, such as the patient's friendly mom who you think has excellent interpersonal skills and would get along well with your staff. Staff members may also know of a neighbor who would be a good candidate.
In my opinion, an excellent source - if not the best source - to find new staff members is a local dental assisting school. If you live in an area where such dental assisting schools are available, try to offer "externships" for their students on a regular basis. A local school in our area requires an eight-week training period in a practitioner's office prior to graduation. Even if you don't have an open position today, you're meeting and helping to train the future of your dental community.
When you do find that special person who is a great fit for your practice, YOU will be in the position to decide how to make a position available (and not the other way around). So start today to make the future happen. Good luck!